The White Russian is a perfect example of how pop culture can have an impact on the cocktail world.

The White Russian as we know it is thought to be a descendant of a 1940s drink called Alexander the Great, which was a mix of vodka, coffee liqueur, crème de cacao, and cream. But the drink’s less-popular counterpart, the Black Russian, actually arrived first on the scene.

As the story goes, the Black Russian was created in the 1940s by bartender Gustave Tops at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels for customer Perle Mesta, the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. The addition of cream didn’t appear until the 1950s or ‘60s, and the resulting White Russian experienced great popularity in the next couple of decades that followed. It fell out of fashion and was considered gauche for years until the Coen brothers released their cult-favorite film The Big Lebowski in 1998.

In the movie, notorious slacker Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski (famously played by Jeff Bridges) was obsessed with the three-ingredient cocktail and took to calling it a Caucasian when he ordered it in the bowling alley that he frequented. What followed was a surge in popularity for the drink, whether it was consumed out of true love or ironically at Lebowski-themed bowling nights. Either way, the sweet, creamy White Russian is a tasty drink that deserves a place in the classic cocktail canon.

Kahlua is the coffee liqueur most often used to make a White Russian, but you can mix your favorite iteration of the spirit in the drink. And if you’re lactose intolerant, feel free to substitute milk alternatives like coconut, almond, or oat for the heavy cream for a less-decadent (but equally delicious) drink.

White Russian, cocktail and coffee beans

White Russian

White Russian

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Vodka
  • 1 oz. Coffee Liqueur
  • 1 oz. Heavy Cream

Preparation: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.